Life in a lab and big-screen illusions

March 16, 2007

Name : Carl Senior

Age : 35

J ob : Lecturer in cognitive neuroscience, Aston University.

Salary : Not enough.

Education/ background : BSc (Hons) in cognitive science from Westminster University, MSc in cognitive neuropsychology from University College London and a PhD from King's College London. I did a postdoc at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and enjoyed a visiting fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US. I have just been awarded the Aston Certificate in Learning and Teaching, an in-house teaching certificate that all staff can take.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage : This varies from having weekly tutorials over coffee with my PhD student to lecturing in front of 150-plus undergraduate students. I do a lot of outreach work with the schools liaison department at Aston and this can involve anything from lecturing to a group of 500-plus sixth-formers to delivering psychophysiology demonstrations to groups of ten.

Biggest challenge this year : Working out how to get a severely visually impaired student to see examples of visual illusions as part of her first-year cognitive psychology class.

How you solved it : We contacted the Science Museum and asked if we could run the lecture for this student on the IMAX screen. It was amazing. For the first time in her life she was able to see visual illusions.

Worst moment in university life : It was a bit of a disaster when I missed a big first-year lecture a few years ago. I got carried away with experiments in the lab and the first thing I knew about my missed lecture was when three dozen irate first-years came looking for me.

What is your office like? Decent-sized with a great view. I use it for tutorials and when the tutorial group gets too big we often go to the central cafe. I spend most of the week in first-class laboratories.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with and how do you cope with them? Everybody can be difficult at some point or other. The thing to remember is that everybody is busy and his or her time is scarce as well so it's nice to cut them a bit of slack.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? I have ongoing research collaborations with members of the Business School and the pharmacy group in the School of Life and Sciences. I am also the admissions tutor for psychol-ogy.

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